Ray Armstrong’s mountain home in Colorado Springs is a sprawling 5,500 square foot structure, with the living space extending outdoors where the owner’s fish ponds and water gardens are located. Armstrong is an award-winning koi fish enthusiast, and his home uses even more energy since the ponds and tanks, where his fish are, require precise temperature and water regulation. Since such a large home also consumes vast amounts of energy, Armstrong enlisted the help of David Bednarski, owner of Bestway Mechanical in Colorado Springs, to help him install the necessary solar and other technologies to reduce this footprint.
The La Jolla, CA home of Jill and Jack Nooren recently received the highest LEED certification awarded to homes, LEED Platinum. The home took three years to build and is a true example of energy efficiency, sustainability and design. The house was designed by domusstudio architecture and built by the Hill Construction Company. The 2,350-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home also won a 2013 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Merit Award for its innovative mild-climate building and design approach, which brings together outdoor and indoor spaces seamlessly.
Solar ovens are a great way to cook sustainably, but they have the drawback of not working very well on cloudy days. However, the new SunFocus solar hybrid oven, made by Sun BD Corporation, takes care of that problem. And what’s more, you can even use this oven to cook at night. This is possible because the SunFocus oven has a hybrid solar and electric system, with the latter taking over once the sun sets or hides behind the clouds.
Harold Turner’s home near Concord, New Hampshire measures 3,370 square feet and was built using the ROSE construction method, which was created to build affordable net zero energy and cost effective homes in a wide variety of geographical locations and environments. R stands for “Renewable energy production,” O and S stand for “Owner driven spatial design,” and E is for “Energy efficient construction,” while the entire house is known as ROSE cottage and serves as a prototype and test bed for future homes to be built using this method. The entire home was built for $175 per square foot.
While living in solar powered homes is very sustainable and environmentally friendly, the materials from which most solar PV arrays are constructed are not. Since they are often made from rare natural materials or plastics, researchers are constantly looking for way to improve this flaw and make the whole package more eco-friendly. A team of scientists from the University of Maryland, the South China University of Technology, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have recently developed a type of paper, which is made from wood fibers. This paper is 96 percent transparent and could conceivably one day be used instead of the plastic materials used to construct the solar cells of today. This would make solar cells more eco-friendly as well as much cheaper.
The Santa Monica-based award-winning green design studio Minarc partnered up with Habitat for Humanity, and a local non-profit firm Restore Neighborhoods LA to design and build affordable, net-zero energy prefabricated homes in the low-income areas of South Los Angeles. Together they built 3 homes, which were all built on vacant lots in the poorest neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The houses all feature Minarc’s innovative, interlocking panel system, which is called mnmMOD. The homes are also equipped with roof top mounted solar panels.